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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bibliography Update! The Swedish Fish: Deflating the Scuba Diver and Working the Rabbits Foot: Answering Christian Apologetics


It's crunch time as I near the end of my second wave of editing before the book goes out for eyes to see, then more editing. After ten months of research, I feel it has progressed quite well, and so I share with you and updated bibliography to the book. Since I have six more chapters to edit, the bibliography may expand a little more depending on whether or not I need to cite any more sources, but this is a good look at what the final Bibliography will look like. 

You may also notice that I don't cite any websites (unless they are an online journal). I chose to keep all my online references contained to in-text bibliographical material, so the links are contained in the footnotes rather than collected at the end. 

I know many books these days tend to have a special bibliographies dedicate to just the web-sources, but seeing as that is about half my citations it would run at least as long as the full bibliography, which would be too long, so I've opted to keep them in the footnotes only. 

You may see the final bibliography in the published version of the book once it is released. With that said, enjoy the extended bibliography! 



The Swedish Fish: Deflating the Scuba Diver and Working the Rabbits Foot: Answering Christian Apologetics


 BIBLIOGRAPHY

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Barrett, Jeffrey A. PSA 2000: Proceedings of the 2000 Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. Chicago, IL: Univ. of Chicago Press, 2002.

Bennett, Bo. Logically Fallacious: The Ultimate Collection of over 300 Logical Fallacies. Sudbury: Ebookit.com, 2012.

Benson, Herbert Et Al. "Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer (STEP) in Cardiac Bypass Patients: A Multicenter Randomized Trial of Uncertainty and Certainty of Receiving Intercessory Prayer." American Heart Journal 151, no. 4 (May 5, 2005): 934-42. doi:10.1016/j.ahj.2005.05.028.

Bering, Jesse. The Belief Instinct. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, 2011.

Blake, William. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: In Full Color. New York: Dover Publications, 1994.

Boghossian, Paul Artin. Fear of Knowledge: Against Relativism and Constructivism. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2006.

Bonanno, Anthony.Archaeology and Fertility Cult in the Ancient Mediterranean: Papers... First International Conference on Archaeology of the Ancient Mediterranean, the University of Malta, Sept. 1985. Amsterdam: B. R. Gruner, 1986

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Grayling, A. C. The God Argument: The Case against Religion and for Humanism. New York: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Greene, J. D. "An FMRI Investigation of Emotional Engagement in Moral Judgment." Science 293, no. 5537 (01, 2001): 2105-108. doi:10.1126/science.1062872.

Greene, Joshua David. Moral Tribes. Emotion, Reason, and the Gap between Us and Them. New York: Penguin Press, 2013.

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Hansen, James E. Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth about the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to save Humanity. New York: Bloomsbury USA, 2009.

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Heimlich, Janet. Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2011.

Heine, Steven. "Sacred High City, Sacred Low City: A Tale of Religious Sites in Two Tokyo Neighborhoods” published in Religious Studies Review 39, no. 1 (12 2013): 53. doi:10.1111/rsr.12020_6.

Helms, Randel. Gospel Fictions. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1988.

Hitchens, Christopher. God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Twelve, 2007.

Hoffmann, R. Joseph. Sources of the Jesus Tradition: Separating History from Myth. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2010.

Holbach, Paul Henri Thiry. Good Sense. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004.

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Jensen, Gary F. “Religious Cosmologies and Homicide Rates among Nations: A Closer Look.” Religious & Society volume 8 (2006), ISSN 1522-5658. Kripke Center. Accessed September 21, 2014. http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2006/2006-7.pdf

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To Whom It Offends

Gods and Kings so great that they fold under the mere weight of opinions like oragami seek to erect laws which threaten violence against their kingdom and call any opinion they find disdainful a blasphemy. It is known by a wise few that blasphemy is anything the powerful wish to find themselves outraged by, and then cry havoc and let loose the dogs of war against all opinions that offend their crystalline sensitivities, while whipping their devotees into a rabid enthusiasm, that lustful hate, which condemns the other and demands undeserved adoration from those they seek to intimidate. Paper Gods and Kings want nothing more than to be the gaolers of opinions, because they know that razor sharp opinions lent by minds just as sharp could cut them down like straw, for they are not made of sterner stuff--they crumple and fold so easily--paper Gods and Kings. Oh, woe! Their followers weep fanatic crocodile tears at the mere thought of their exalted idol's contortions under the weight of any little trifling contention. Oh, woe betide anyone whose words provoke, these paper thin Gods and Kings to which blasphemy offends. Thus our flimsy paper potentates use their great power to press all opinions into the flattest and most unimpressive form--the form of imitation--opinions as flat as those of folding paper Gods and Kings.



Friday, September 19, 2014

Yahweh's Evolution: A Look at the Israelite Pantheon and the Journey from Polytheism to Monotheism (From Chapter 20: The Vacuity of Christian Faith of The Swedish Fish)



Yahweh's Evolution: A Look at the Israelite Pantheon and the Journey from Polytheism to Monotheism (From Chapter 20: The Vacuity of Christian Faith of The Swedish Fish)

We begin chapter twenty “Would a Most Perfect Being Have a Most Imperfect Church?” with the continued comparison of the Christian concept of God with the Greek concept of Zeus. Randal affirms:

While Zeus was created by other gods, Christians and Jews always taught that Yahweh is the creator of all things … The difference between various concepts of God is important for eliminating certain descriptions of the most perfect being.

Remember my earlier objection to the method of assigning templates to your chosen God concept as a way to reject competing definitions as not compatible with your template? Holding up dissimilar God-concepts to your randomly selected template, and then saying this definition fits but that other one doesn’t, is easy. But in essence, all one has done is show that some definitions fit arbitrary religious templates better than others. This is to be expected. But one hasn’t proved anything yet.
Regardless, there is more to object to than Randal’s obstinate insistence that his God concept is the only one in town. Randal is simply wrong on all accounts here.
First off, the statement that God is the creator of all things and the statement that God had a creator (in this case other gods) are two entirely separate statements. The Christian God may very well be the creator of “all things” as legend has it, but that doesn’t mean he created himself. It means all the things we know were created by god, but since we don’t know what gods might exist, or what their evolutionary histories may be, or whether it requires gods to create gods, we cannot simply assume that the Christian God was not created or didn’t have parents.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, Randal is mistaken in thinking that Jewish mythology begins and ends with Christian mythology. Superimposing your belief system on another people’s belief system doesn’t automatically make your belief system the correct one. In point of fact, Israel and its people were still a polytheistic before the exile, or more precisely between the 10th century BC and the beginning of their exile in 586 BCE.[1] The Israelites worshipped a pantheon of gods including El, Asherah, Baal, Moloch, Kaus, and Yahweh, just to name a few.[2] Most scholars consider El and Yahweh separate gods even though it would appear that Yahweh later got hypostatized with El into one and the same deity by the time the Torah was composed. [3] Even so, an archeological find at Kuntillet Ajrud in the northern Sinai desert in 1978 uncovered three anthropomorphic figures dating back to 800 BCE at the end of the Iron age which referred separately to Yahweh, El, and Baal, implying they were three distinct but equally revered gods.[4]
It’s worth noting that the god Baal was one of the sons of El, and represented the direct rival to Yahweh, which is why the Old Testament god admonishes his followers not to worship the other gods, such as Baal. By the ninth century BCE we see telltale signs of a gradual turn toward monotheism where the old gods of the Israelites were supplanted and/or rejected in favor of a single, supreme god—i.e., Yahweh.[5]
The new god Yahweh was a warrior god from the northern region of Edom and Midian, near Judah, who grew in popularity until he eventually usurped El, the original God of Israel, and took himself a consort, Asherah (originally El’s wife) who is also referred to as the “Queen of Heaven” and who was worshipped alongside both El and Yahweh by early Israelites from roughly the seventh to ninth centuries BCE.[6]
With Yahweh’s rise to fame, however, Asherah became the new Hebrew god’s consort (Yahweh isn’t an adulterer so much as the Hebrews liked to pair Asherah with their preferred god and the Canaanites liked to pair her with theirs, in this case the god El). Meanwhile, Yahweh, the warrior god of the Hebrews, and Baal (son of El), [7] the preferred god of the Canaanites, co-existed together for a time, but around the tenth century BCE a shift occurred when Yahweh worship eventually became the popular religion and fully usurped Baal worship, thus leading to what would become the world’s major monotheistic religion.[8]
At any rate, all of this is old news, but all the same claiming as Randal does that Zeus was a created god but that Yahweh is the God of all things (implying he wasn’t created) isn’t entirely true. Modern day Jews may say that now, sure, but a closer look into the history of the Israelites reveals this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yahweh wasn’t always the god of all things. In fact, as we have seen, there was quite a bit of competition back in the day.
Evidently, history teaches us a different story than the one Christian apologists want us to hear. As it turns out, Yahweh didn’t create the other gods of the Israelite pantheon as Yahweh was a rather late addition, only solidifying into a monotheistic deity during the period of the United Monarchy ( circa 1020 and 930 BCE). It was during this period that Yahweh assimilated the traits of all the other gods in the Israelite pantheon and, ultimately, became the final representation of the Israelite god.
Present day monotheism, and so too the Jewish belief that Yahweh is the one true god (a belief adopted by early Christians), however, is the end result of a long process of religious evolution from an earlier, more robust Israelite polytheism. A serious scholar, such as Randal claims to be, who writes on the history of the Jews and the Israelites and their God should probably know all this if he intends to be taken seriously as a scholar.
In this case though, it’s clear that Randal takes the history of Yahweh and the Israelite pantheon completely for granted, ignoring the history which shows us that Yahweh was likely a created god along with all the rest of the Israelite pantheon, and no different from Zeus in this regard.





[1] See The Bible Unearthed: Archaelogy’s New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origin of Its Sacred Texts by Israel Finkelstein and Neil Asher Silberman, pp. 241-42.

[2] The Dictionary of Gods and Goddesses by Michael Jordan, pp. 31-32; 41-42; 88-89; 218; & 278.

[3] See The Early History of God: Yahweh and Other Deities in Ancient Israel, location 375 and 1167-1269; 1302 Kindle, ff. part 4. Asherah/asherah Revisited, by Mark Smith (2002), Yahweh and the Gods and Goddesses of Canaan by John Day, p. 32, and Archeology and fertility cult in the ancient Mediterranean, pp. 237-38, edited by Anthony Bonanno.

[4] Ze’ev Meshel, Kuntillet ‘Ajrud: An Israelite Religious Center in Northern Sinai, Expedition 20 (Summer 1978), pp. 50-55.

[5] Smith, The Early History of God, location 3098 Kindle.

[6]Ibid, location 985-1096, and 1302 Kindle.

[7] To learn more about Baal and the numerous reference to him found in the Old Testament please see “The Worship of Baal” available online at:
    http://www.bible-history.com/resource/ff_baal.htm

[8] See the PBS interview with William Dever, Professor Emeritus at the University of Arizona. See: “Archeology of the Hebrew Bible,” and can be read online at:
   http://pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/archeology-hebrew-bible.html

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

First Amendment Woes: Pennsylvania Teen Simulates Fellatio with Jesus Statue: Gets His Constitutional Rights Walked On



Blasphemy laws are inefficacious because they seek to make the one thing illegal that cannot be controlled by the law or by sheer authority, namely the human will. If people want to express themselves and their opinions, they will almost always find a way to do so.

In the recent news a Pennsylvania teenager, being teenagery, did the awfully silly thing of posing with a Jesus statue and simulated oral sex with it. 

The pictures found their way to the Interwebs and people saw the photos and became outraged. Unfortunately, there also happens to be an archaic anti-blasphemy styled law in the Pennsylvania law books which states that desecration of sacred objects in the state of Pennsylvania has a maximum punishment of up to two years in prison.

As the Washington Times reports:

As a result of the absolutely idiotic Pennsylvania desecration law, the boy actually faces a stiffer penalty for gesturing near the statue than he would have for stealing or destroying the figure.

Snicker. It said, "Stiffer" penalty. 

You see, it's good to have a sense of humor. One which, apparently, the state District Attorney, Bill Higgins, lacks as he is seeking to charge the boy with a second-degree misdemeanor charge. On his Facebook page, Bill Higgins defended his prosecuting the teen by stating:

As for this case, this troubled young man offended the sensibilities and morals of OUR community. … His actions constitute a violation of the law, and he will be prosecuted accordingly. If that tends to upset the ‘anti-Christian, ban-school-prayer, war-on-Christmas, oppose-display-of-Ten-Commandments’ crowd, I make no apologies.

It's not so much the severity of the nonsensical charge that stings, since with a bit of community service it could be expunged from the teen's record anyway, but the attitude of those willing to sacrifice this kid as a scapegoat. 

Christians are obviously mad at the recent widespread, secular, irreligious attitudes and are lashing out in infantile temper tantrums. A kid offended us by making a lewd gesture in front of Jesus! *Gasp. Quick, let's all trample his First Amendment rights because we were able to dig up an archaic law that's specifically designed to ignore his constitutional rights, that'll teach him!

But the question I have is, what the fuck man? 

Why are we prosecuting a kid for doing absolutely nothing wrong excepted, perhaps, offending the sensibilities of some tight asses in Pennsylvania?

Drew Johnson, in a scathing opinion piece "The first amendment on trial," writes that

While molesting a statue or burning a flag does nothing to injure Christian or American values, Mr. Higgins‘ prosecution of the teen does, however, harm both.

 Indeed, I felt the same way and wrote a rather concerned email to Mr. Higgins at his work email address. He politely responded.

I do not wish to show the full email as this is an ongoing case. I feel bad that Mr. Higgins and his family have received death threats and I said as much in my email reply.

Mr. Higgins reassures me that the kid will get off with a slap on the wrists, without having to serve any jail time, and maybe he'll do a bit of community service to boot. But something Higgins said in the letter got under my skin. I mean, it deeply bothered me. 

In his letter to me, he reassured me that he was "very sympathetic to young people and their occasional lack of good judgement."

So that's why we're trying this teenager as a criminal?

For a non-crime no less? 

So, that's the total amount of sympathy the entire state of Pennsylvania could muster for hyperactive teen who acted out in bad taste? Trample his First Amendment rights?

Doesn't it bother you that the real crime here appears to be the suspiciously religious desire to have people punished for blasphemy in a country which protects their freedom of speech and expression? I sure as hell bothers me.

Here is my reply to Mr. Higgins in full:

Dear Mr. Higgins,

Thanks for your response. I meant no ill will, as my father was a defense attorney for 20 odd some years as is one of my good friends.

That said, there are certain laws in certain states that are archaic in the extreme. In my home state of Montana there is a law still on the books that states that no female shall be unescorted after nine pm on a Sunday evening.

Needless to say, I see women up past nine pm on Sundays all of the time!

It's shocking, I know. Like you, I too am sympathetic, in this case toward women, for their lack of good judgement.

Actually, I am no woman's keeper, I was just making a point that both laws are rather archaic and quite inefficacious. They also seem to impose themselves on the rights of the individual for no valid or logical reason I can discern.

Is it immoral to pose in a provocative fashion? How about with inanimate objects? A tree? A rock? A statue?

If Miley Cyrus can get away with twerking on national television, I don't see how a mere simulation of a lewd act can constitute a real crime. Especially when there were no other people involved in the act except for the young man. So the offense is against other people's sensibilities?

If people's sensibilities were offended, so be it. But that's all they are allowed. The offense.

Demanding any punishment beyond a public apology is overstepping their moral authority; and all based on an emotional response no less.

I can only roll my eyes and hope these people may get offended more often so that they might one day evolve a thicker skin and a sense of humor.

I am sorry for you and your family having received death threats. That should never happen. But you know how people get when their sensibilities are offended, they become quite irrational.

At any rate, it's a shame you had to experience such irrationality yourself. Let's just hope it ends here with this case and doesn't continue any further than this.

Peace.

Cordially,

Tristan Vick

I closed the letter with a quote from Robert G. Ingersoll which I will share with you all.

"If abuses are destroyed, man must destroy them. If slaves are freed, man must free them. If new truths are discovered, man must discover them. If the naked are clothed; if the hungry are fed; if labor is rewarded; if superstition is driven from the mind; if the defenseless are protected; and if the right finally triumphs, all must be the work of man. The grand victories of the future must be won by man, and by man alone." 




Digital Rights, Privacy, and U2 Forcing it's Music on You Too

Digital rights is a fuzzy subject because we always click on the "terms of agreement" without actually reading through the endless pages of legal jargon that seeks to protect the property of the company you are buying from.


In a bold move Apple released U2's new album on every iPhone in the world (as long as you had an active iTunes account, that is). 

I didn't even know about this until just yesterday, and low and behold, U2's new album! 


So, yeah. That happened.


At first I didn't know what to think. Had U2 and Apple invaded my privacy and downloaded stuff onto my phone without my consent? Well, not exactly. Nothing about me or of mine was stolen or used without my consent. The files stay in the cloud until you agree to download it, so technically it wasn't even on my phone. 

Even so, the prospect of what else the powers that be might be able to do with my phone without my consent is quite frightening, nothing bad happened. Hey, it was free music!

So being the consumer that I am I downloaded it and listened to the album.

I have to congratulate Bono and the rest of U2, because if they set out to create an album packed with nothing but B-sides, they succeeded in flying colors. 

Honestly, it may be one of the worst U2 albums I've ever listened to (and this coming from a U2 fan). Worse, it's simply one of the worst albums I've ever listened to, period. It had two halfway decent songs on it, and that's as nice as I'm going to get with my review of the songs.

Many people are offended that Apple pulled this stunt. I'm not. I find it an interesting use of technology, besides, they all clicked on the terms and services agreement without reading just like I did. Besides, iTunes has always (ALWAYS!) been a pain in the backside. What makes anybody think it would be any different now that they're giving away free music?

I only wish it would have been a better album with better songs.




But I am curious. What are your thoughts? Did Apple have a right to force U2 on you? 

Do you feel your privacy was breached?

Do you agree with Bono's claim that it's just a bunch of Irish guys blood, sweat and tears? Or was he mistaken, and this is the blood, sweat and tears of countless millions crying out into the night, "Nooooo! Not U2 on my play list!"

Or do you just not give a fig?

I'm interested in your thoughts. Feel free to place them in the comments section below. 


Advocatus Athesit

Advocatus Athesit